Godspeed Amang

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

Today, as I gaze at the sunrise, I think of a loved one who can no longer marvel at this awesome sight. Nor all other sunrises of mornings ahead.

He had gone to rest forever to bask no more in sunshines nor moonshines, but in the light of God’s eternal light. 

We thank the Lord for the blessing of him in our lives. He is a simple and ordinary man. Yet unique, special and funny, even when life slowly slipped away from his frail body, and his memory faded with it.

We thank God for the fine man that he had been, for by him, the standard was raised for his sons and grandsons to follow.

I thank  Amang for his sacrifices and hard work in the name of love for family, which never ever diminished his sunny disposition.  

For this reason and more, I will remember him with every sunrise, and the happy memory of his smile. 

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Mary, Mother of Jesus

“When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  Luke 2:17-19

Our Lady of Manaoag

Today, we usher in 2017. What a better way to begin this new year than to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. 

The past year has been tough. On top of all other challenges, our family is under attack by dark forces of this world, trying to pull us apart to different directions.

Through it all, I believe she intercedes for us as we struggle daily to carry on. The rosary has such power to obtain graces as  we pray everyday.

During times when I almost give up, I think about Mary, and if she was in the same situation, what would she have done.  It always gives me the serenity to endure everything, with the realization that she experienced worst.

Yet she never faltered.  She is ever a picture of faith and love, despite the pierced heart from her own son, Jesus’ suffering and death. 

We look forward to a new year with a new hope for our family. May each of us continue to carry in our hearts the unconditional love of Mary for Jesus everyday.  For as long as we do, there’s hope.

The Colors of My Christmas

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21-23 

In a few days, we shall celebrate Christmas. Again. Being Christians, it is as essential as breathing.

I just realized it will be my 50th Christmas. I can remember vaguely, how each year was celebrated. But I’ll never forget how Christmas felt like.

When I was a child, it was all fun. Christmas tree and lanterns, Santa Claus and gifts, apples and grapes. Those were what Christmas was about. As I close my eyes, I see red, green and gold.


Then as I grew up and learned about the Nativity story.  The Belen, the Simbang Gabi and the Gloria became part of the list. So blue was added to represent Mama Mary.

When I got older and had a family of my own, the Holy Family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus became the goal. Christmas should be family.

In 2009, 4 days before Christmas, Daddy passed away. It was a season for families to be together. Hence, his funeral was held a day after, so we could be together at Christmas for the last time. The color I see was purple.

Now at 50, I know now what Christmas is all about- Jesus. Not the one in the Belen. Not in traditions. Definitely not in things. But Jesus in our hearts and mind. Absolutely. 

This year, all that I am used to celebrate Christmas with were taken away. What is expected of me, myself included, is to sulk and despair.

But no. There is a only certain calm and peace knowing that this is God’s will for me. All I can see is white. Pure and simple. JESUS is the reason for this season.


My prayer for you is to not be blinded by the world. Because the world has its way to keep you from seeing the true picture of Christmas.

My heart rejoices for the colors that Christmas brings into my life. May you also find Jesus in the kaleidoscope of your celebrations.

He isn’t far. He is right there in your heart, waiting for you to unwrap His gift of love, hope and peace.

Teks, Komiks at Iba pa

“He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3 
 

I’m blessed with a happy childhood.  It always brings me joy to remember.

My Tata Sixto has such meztiso features while my Inana Eya was more exotic.  They  had ten children, one of whom died during the war.

My Daddy was third among these children.  Being the eldest boy, he had shared responsibility in raising up his younger brothers and sisters.

My Mommy is a beauty from the north.  Being ten years younger than my Daddy, there was some sort of generation gap between them.  But they survived forty-four years of marriage, because according to Mommy there was no expiration date on their marriage contract.  Thank God.

Aside from two spinsters, my Daddy’s siblings all have families of their own.  With this huge clan, my brother, sister and I grew up with learning to drink beer before we were even teenagers.  We also learned how to play mahjong, black jack and lucky nine like it was a family membership requirement.

But note:  this was only during fiesta of Patron San Marcos … and Christmas … and  New Year … and some Tito’s or Tita’s birthday.

During these celebrations, the third generation to which I belong had the time of our lives.  We get to stay up late until dawn.  We played habulan, taguan, and patintero.

We read komiks rented from the store in the kanto.  We played teks and goma.  We climbed trees.  We collect flowers for Flores de Maria in May.  We invade Inanang Mary’s store for kornik and chicharon lapad.

Above all these, we were taught values that would be our guide when we grew up.   Inana Eya was a devout Catholic.  And though she did not impose, we were taught how to practice our faith by her example.

We were taught how to “mano po” to show respect to our elders.  Say “po” and “opo”.

In Manaoag, during our vacations to Mommy’s hometown, we even experienced how at 6pm, when the church bells rang, every one stopped to pray the angelus.  Even if they were on the middle of the street, people would stop to face the church and pray, in reverence, until the church bells stopped ringing.

Those were the days when our grandparents lived and loved.  Those were the times when all we did was laugh.  And if we must cry, it was because we yearned to laugh some more.

Close Encounter with Pope Francis

It was a typical day.The sun was just up rising above the mountain range that stand guard to our little barrio, Balian where there was a time during my childhood when everyone knows everybody.

All of a sudden, a man in a white robe and skull cap breezed into the sala from nowhere. Of course we knew he was coming. But to literally enter our home was a heavenly experience. Time stood still for a moment as we stood there staring at him in awe, as we share the same space and breathe the same air. We were Pope-strucked!

As I came back slowly to my senses, which seemed like ages, I inched toward him, bowed down, took his hand and kissed it in the traditional way that we, Filipinos, do the “Mano po” to pay our respect.

His hand seemed huge. And I said to myself, this is the big hand of a generous man who has likewise a big heart.

It was quick. The next moment, I saw him sneaking out through our back door. Then everything was vague after that. But every moment with him was vivid.

Then I woke up. It was the day before his arrival in Manila. And I was 7,367 km away here in Bahrain. And I was dreaming!

The following days, much has already been said and done of the papal visit. as I watched the entire Filipino nation welcome Pope Francis wherever he went; as TV cameras focused on each and every face that radiated the joy Pope Francis shared; as I saw my fellowmen wiping their tears at the mere sight of him as I tried so hard to hold back my own- I couldn’t help but remember the dream that I had and how the Pope made me feel. So I empathized. And I understood. I was overwhelmed. I have to write and share.

For five very special days, for Filipinos everywhere in the world, it felt like heaven was within reach.

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Pope Francis rekindled our faith in God, in Jesus who he represents on earth, in the Spirit dwelling amongst us. Pope Francis awakened the innate generosity of our humanity as Filipinos that has long been put to sleep because of social injustice brought about by corruption and greed disguised as government. Pope Francis reaffirmed the sacredness of family and its importance in spreading the Word of God. He reminded us that in order to follow Christ, we should follow His example.

Be a beggar. Be a child. Think well. Feel well. Do well. Be quiet. Cry. Dream. Love. These were notable reminders from the Pope that we will cherish in our hearts and minds long after his departure.

But the real essence of our encounter with the Pope is Jesus. In our generation of materialism when our daily goal had become to make more money, he reminds us that there is something more important in life. That despite how the world has gotten ahead of itself in terms of technology, humankind in fact is getting poorer in terms of the quality of lives of the majority of its population.

It is therefore imperative for us to look back into that five days (six days for me) when Filipinos were elevated to holiness because we came face to face with who we really are and what we should always be. And we are a merciful and compassionate people filled with God’s love. Let not the absence of Pope Francis in our midst once again diminish us to self-centered, self-righteous and self-sufficient people that we are not. God created us in His image and likeness. Let us live up to it.

Let us continue to pray for Pope Francis with grateful hearts. Let us pray for each other as we live not for ourselves alone. We need one another. So let us tell the world of His love. Like Pope Francis joyfully does.

Bloom Where You Are Re-planted

“Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them…” 1 Corinthians 7:17

I just celebrated my 48th birthday a few weeks back. As part of my annual sentimental “look-back” at what have been, I realized that there is one constant that dominates the story of my life- and that is MOVING.

Before I finished my studies, I lived at 5 different houses and went to 8 different schools. from the time i got married until now, I lived at 9 houses and worked in a commercial establishment, a government agency, a bank, 2 schools and a hospital. That does not include where I live and work now.

Sometimes I wonder what my life could have been if there wasn’t too much action. How stress-free it could have been if i work at the same office table until i retire. And how comforting to live in just one house until my last breath. But who really knows?

So S also wondered how it could have been if I was stuck in only one corner of the same office and worked consistently on the same assignment everyday. by now I would have probably mastered the grooves and accomplish all without batting my short lashes, but how bored to death I would be now.

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I also wondered how many places I would not have the privilege to visit if it was my destiny to normally age within the four corners of the same house i was born to. How I would have missed the rapid beating of my heart whenever i experience the rising of the sun and its setting from different perspectives, the changing of the seasons under a different view of the sky, the genuine tastes and sounds of various societies.

And yes, I wondered how many people I would not have met… and known… and loved, if I was just bounded by the walls of my immediate family. I would not have known people from other nations who are as diverse in our culture and tradition, yet so similar in our humanity.

Moving is actually a joyful adventure for me rather than a futile exercise; like a flowering plant that is constantly being pulled from where it has grown its roots and re-planted to a new and strange spot. It may be a new pot or a beautiful garden. It doesn’t matter where, only its purpose is to bloom.

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I believe I am God’s little flower. And I am repeatedly being uprooted and re-planted to serve my purpose. I am in the here and now because God planned this from the beginning.

When it is time for that little flower in me to move again, I will no longer wonder. because all I need to do is bloom.

Harry Potter is my son!

“The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty-handed.”  Exodus 34:20

SPECIALIS REVELIO! This is a spell which causes an object to show its hidden secrets or magical properties. One of many in the Harry Potter series. Maybe, the very spell which causes HP followers to yearn for more.

When the first film was shown in movie theaters years ago, my children were then 9 and 6 – old enough to understand the story despite the accent, but young enough to be bedazzled with its awesome special effects.  From then on, our household increased by three – Megan, Miguel plus Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.  My kids loved their new-found siblings, and in Hogwarts, they would meet new friends with whom they would grow up with in time.

My kids indeed have grown now.  So did Harry, Hermione and Ron.  It is amazing to note the physical transformation.  But it is more noteworthy how their bond grew stronger through the years.

10 years, 7 books and 8 movies after, JK Rowling did a great job to steer our kids’ imagination towards a love affair with books.  Such that national bookstore was like a candy store to them.  The significant influence is written all over our children’s chosen career path.  Megan is a prolific writer with a passion for creative production layouts.  Miguel, on the other hand, dreams of becoming a filmmaker.  Thus, Harry Potter casts his spell .

We knew someday our kids would go and follow their own calling.  But Harry Potter had to go too, and we are sad that it all ends now.

On the contrary we are blessed, that in our time, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, their masters, friends and villains, came to life. Our household had been stupefied by their presence, and like a son, Harry Potter would live on in our hearts.

Thanks to GOD who is ever greater than magic and the creator of JK Rowling, Harry Potter would triumph over all evils for ages to come.  EXPECTO PATRONUM!

life is a sentence

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” John 11:25

today is supposed to be my dear friend roobee’s 45th birthday.  but we all stopped counting at 43, because she died almost two years ago after a fatal seizure.  last week my nephew Banjo, who is in his early twenties, passed on due to a lingering illness.  and just this week, my son’s former schoolmate and good friend, Kent, suddenly died in iligan because of a car accident.  he was still in his teens. 

in daddy’s case when he battled the big C,  he was given an estimated time when he was expected to die.  but nobody could really tell. he too, could have figured in an accident long before that.  then the doctors’ estimate would have been a gross mistake. and our family, unprepared and devastated. or there could have been a miracle, when the mistake would be most welcomed.

it is unbelievable when death cheats his way and no one else is looking.  it leaves everyone stunned and numb. unable to comprehend what is going on.  long after we moved on, the sadness lingers. 

at school, we were taught that “a sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete idea and includes a subject and a verb“.  in life we learn that it is. 

life is a sentence.

life is sentence whose subject is us.  and the verb, what we do with “us”.

 “a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark.”

our life begins with a loud cry.  and when it ends, only God knows.   but certainly, it will.

life usually ends with a period.  this is when life ends how and when most expects it to end – live a full life, die naturally and happily at old age.

life sometimes end with a question mark.  when someone who is young and full of dreams gets sick and die, we often ask what if and what could have been.

life, on rare occasions, end with a punctuation mark. we all get this shock and disbelief when one dies from an accident, a crime or a suicide.

in between, we may pause with a comma or a semi-colon, to give order to our compound or complex lives.

and when we finally reunite with our Creator, our sentences end with a . . .

for with the Lord is unending joy and love.

but for us who are still under construction, let us always be thankful for all the other sentences that we connect with, whether the past, present or future tense.

together and in harmony, we could create a paragraph or a novel even.  a love story that would highlight God’s glory in all our lives. and punctuate it with  : )

my amnesia girl

“Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  1 Peter 5:8

something funny happened while we watched “my amnesia girl”.

first of, the movie was about Apollo and Irene, who were in love with each other that they decided to finally tie the knot.  on the day of the wedding, Apollo got cold feet and chose not to go on.  Irene was deeply hurt and heart-broken.  but on one fateful day, their paths crossed again.  Irene pretended she did not know Apollo and just asked “Sino ka?” as a way to protect herself from being hurt again.

it was a typical romance movie except for corny but kilig similes and metaphors that Apollo and Irene used throughout the movie.   my husband and i were amused at how we could relate to the pick-up lines… considering our age.  in fact, we were so amazed at how romance could be old-fashioned and yet so updated. 

here were some:

“ulan ka ba?  kasi lupa ako. at sa ayaw at sa gusto mo, sa akin ang bagsak mo.”

“alam mo, bagay sa yo yang damit mo.  pero mas bagay ako sa yo.”

“para kang pustiso, i can’t smile without you.”

“Thank you Lord, pandesal lang naman ang hinihingi ko sa inyo.  hamburger binigay Nyo. me fries pa!”

we were like having too much fun with the lines that we totally forgot something!

our son barged into our bedroom, and asked if we were cooking. that was the time we remembered the beef.  my husband and i rushed to the kitchen.  it was already filled with smoke. like we were enveloped with clouds.  i wondered if that was how heaven looked like.  it didn’t smell like it though.

my husband immediately turned off the stove and removed the pot cover.  there it was, our dinner totally scorched and charred.

LOL! somebody had amnesia! 

they say forgetfulness is a sign of old age .  i sometimes wonder about how i would become when my memory would finally fail me. good thing is, when that moment comes, then i would never know.

on hindsight, it could have been a tragic experience if our son did not find out soon enough.  but thank God!  we lost our dinner, but not the lesson.  it is one thing i’d probably remember for the longest time.

there are plenty of things that keep us occupied throughout the day.  and there are times when self-inflicted amnesia brings us to another dimension. to some kind of out of body experience. like a whole new world of triviality.

it is best to stay alert and focus on the essential which only the heart can see.

and which the heart would never forget.

The Beatitudes – Our Program for Holiness

repost from Catholic Online 

The Beatitudes of the Gospel turn worldly values upside down. The world pursues happiness in wealth, power, fame and disordered sexual pursuits; whereas the Gospel demands of us values that are essentially different. The Beatitudes challenge us to choose: to live Christianity or to live by the standards of this world. The choice to live the Gospel changes our entire life and confronts every aspect of our human existence.

 The Sermon on the Mount presents the way to holiness and happiness
The Sermon on the Mount presents the way to holiness and happiness

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) – At an important point in the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi, a missionary gave him a book that contained the four Gospels.  This of course, was the Indian leader’s first exposure to Christianity.  He read the Gospels with great interest, and was convinced that the principles taught by Jesus could resolve all of the political, social and economic problems of his country.

Gandhi had to travel throughout Western Europe in order to muster support for an independent India.  Traveling through Christian countries, he was dismayed only to conclude that the Gospels are wonderful indeed, but he did not see anyone living their teaching.  For this reason, Gandhi never converted to Christianity.

We are all called to be saints.  Today’s Gospel passage reminds us of the program and lays out the path.

The Beatitudes contain the essence of the Christian way of life.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices.  It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else.  It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement – however beneficial it may be – such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love” (CCC # 1723).

The Beatitudes of the Gospel turn all worldly values upside down.  The world pursues happiness in wealth, power, fame and disordered sexual pursuits; whereas the Gospel calls us to embrace and live values that are essentially different, in order to transform this world, and reveal the kingdom.

The Beatitudes challenge us to choose: to live Christianity or to live by the standards of the world.  Do you want to give in to the demands of a worldly way of life, or have you decided to live true and authentic Christianity?  The choice to live the Gospel changes our entire life.  It tells us how we are to act, how we are to dress, how we are to speak and how we are to interact with people.  The choice to live the Gospel confronts every aspect of our entire existence.

A number of years ago I was invited to give a retreat to a group of lay people in New York City.  A seminarian graciously accompanied me in order to help with the practical details.  Prior to the evening retreat, we had a number of appointments, and so that meant that we would have lunch in New York.  The seminarian really enjoyed Asian cuisine, so I accommodated his palate by inviting him to lunch at a Korean restaurant.

As we went to our table, we were met by a Korean woman who graciously attended us with delicate courtesy. Having had many years of experience at my father’s restaurant, I was able to notice that her kindness, manners and spirit of service were far from ordinary. 

Towards the end of the meal, another Korean woman finished waiting on our table.  When we were ready, I asked her for the check.  She then proceeded to tell me that there would be no charge for the lunch because the first waitress took care of the bill.  I was very surprised and I asked her why she had decided to pay for our meal.  “She is Christian,” was the unanticipated answer from the waitress.

“She is Christian,” meant that all the other waitresses were not Christian, and that all though encountering a free meal in the middle of downtown New York City surprised me, they were not surprised at all.  They knew that this woman was different.  Because of her Christianity, she was different.

The four beatitudes in Luke’s Gospel sum up the eight beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel.  The shorter version in Luke’s Gospel is followed by four curses that underscore what happens to those who choose to live by the values of the world. 

Let us for brevity sake, consider the four beatitudes in Luke’s Gospel.

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”  No matter how much or how little we possess, we are all called to recognize that everything we have comes from God.  God is our Father and he will provide all of our needs.  Creatures are simply stepping stones on the journey towards eternal life.  This beatitude calls us to be totally detached from the things of this world and to seek our true happiness in God alone.  However, at the same time, this beatitude also calls us to use our gifts, talents, resources and the things of this world to help all those who are in need and to create a better life for everyone.

“Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.”  Most of us have never suffered from severe hunger or thirst.  Most of us, despite the challenges of life, have never gone without a meal or never went without water.  The hunger that Jesus refers to concerns the hunger for the transcendent.  Secularism and materialism have deadened this natural desire for God.  The desire for God is insatiable in this life and can only be satisfied completely in eternity.

“Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.”  The Christian experience begins with the acknowledgment of our sinful condition.  “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5: 8).  Repentance allows us to experience true joy.  The humble person acknowledges sin, converts and becomes the loving recipient of God’s mercy.  No one can truly repent without true sorrow for sin.

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”  Jesus knew that the life of the true Christian on earth would not be an easy one.  The authentic Christian lives a life totally in contrast to those who live by the standards of the world.  For the Christian, conflict will always be a normal way of life.  It is amazing what millions of our brothers and sisters have suffered throughout the history of Christianity for their Lord and God. 

In conclusion, the Beatitudes do not contain all of the teachings of the Gospel.  However, they do contain the most essential aspects of Christian behavior that we need to live in order to reach Christian perfection.  The Beatitudes of Jesus present to us an entirely new way of living our lives.  Granted, this new way of life is challenging and difficult, nevertheless, he alone offers to us all of the spiritual means that we need in order to live them with conviction in our daily lives.

We are all called to be saints.  We are all called to be heroes.  Now, more than ever, the Church needs new saints and new heroes.

by Father James Farfaglia, the Happy Priest, the pastor of Saint Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas and a member of the Board of Directors of Human Life International. 

You can visit him on the web at www.donotbediscouraged.comThere you can find his books, homilies, articles and blog posts.